In a couple of weeks — on April 28 in Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Texas — we are hosting our first IF:Citywide. Our dream is that women who might not be comfortable walking through the doors of a church or joining a small group but — who at the very least — are curious about God will grab some food and a friend or two and come out.
It will be a time to talk about what we think about when we think about God — about Jesus. It will be a space that is safe for the questions and the wrestling. And hopefully it will be an event where women from all different walks of life and in all different stages of the journey can sigh, and say, “me too.”
Here’s a little bit of my story so you know that I truly believe wrestling co-mingles with faith. I also tucked in some song lyrics that have made me feel a little less out there.
In high school, I was very involved in our church’s youth group, in K-Life, and in Younglife. I worked so hard to be a “good Christian girl.” Some Tuesday before school we’d gather for Pancakes & Prayer. I went mostly for the pancakes — and for the appearances. One Tuesday in the silence, my doubts and questions couldn’t be silenced. Why was everything I did for God not enough? Why didn’t He seem more real to me? Was I the lukewarm believer that Revelation warned about? Would I be saved or would God spit me out?
What will be left when I’ve drawn my last breath
Besides the folks I’ve met and the folks who’ve known me
Will I discover a soul-saving love
Or just the dirt above and below me
Doubting Thomas, Nickel Creek
In college and well into my twenties, I tried to play the game but if I’m honest I was just plain tired of all the rules. I wanted to live my life my way. I was still a good-ish girl but the desire to just be normal and enjoy life tugged at me more than Jesus did. Church was an old friend I would pop in on from time to time but not someone I would ever be real with. Could I believe in God and not go to church?
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life
Awake My Soul, Mumford & Sons
One of the guys I dated and dreamed of marrying went to church a little more regularly and so, of course like any proper girlfriend, I would put on my Sunday’s best and go with him. His church was different — more contemporary, more evangelical — than the one I had grown up in. I would get so distracted watching the folks in front of me lift their hands and dance in the aisles to the worship music. Where did their freedom and confidence come from? One Sunday after church, with tears streaming down my face I asked him, how church could make him feel good when it left me feeling so — ashamed? I envied his simple faith. Why did mine feel so much more complicated? Could God love me in spite of my bad behavior? Why couldn’t I have God and happiness too?
Can you lie next to her
And give her your heart, your heart
As well as your body
And can you lie next to her
And confess your love, your love
As well as your folly
And can you kneel before the king
And say I’m clean, I’m clean
White Blank Page, Mumford & Sons
After the church-going boy and my relationship imploded, I moved to Nashville to work for a Christian publisher. I guess in the interview I knew enough about God to say all the right things but in reality my relationship with God was still messy at best. One day as I was perusing twitter for work, I stumbled upon a blog post by a local pastor about his man crush. I read it and sent it to a friend and asked if she’d visit his church with me on Sunday. She said yes, and we went, and I found a community that believed and lived out words that changed my life.
“Nobody’s Perfect. Everyone’s Welcome. Anything’s Possible.”
Those words, that pastor, and that church reshaped my view of God. Could God be more than a life-raft headed toward Heaven? Could He be good enough to run towards me — His wandering daughter? Could His grace be for me — for today? Could I have an abundant life in and with God like my new friends? I discovered for the first time in my life, I could.
It seems that all my bridges have been burned
But you say ‘That’s exactly how this grace thing works’
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start
Roll Away Your Stone, Mumford & Sons
That brings us to today, to a life in ministry, where surprisingly, following God has felt hard again. In an attempt to get to the bottom of whatever was happening in my weary soul, I sought out spiritual direction that quickly helped me see that I’ve reverted back to working at and for God, not necessarily with Him. I truly want to know God more fully but — if I’m honest — I am real tired and just a little burnt out on religion. Working harder is not working for me anymore. How can I “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” for myself and for others? How can find God in my rest and not just in my work?
Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be
Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons
Well, that’s just a few snippets of my journey. If it didn’t sound like the ramblings of a crazy woman, if you saw a little of yourself here — somewhere, or if you are passionate about creating spaces where women can wrestle so that they may know God more, check out more information about the heart of IF:Citywide. We’ll be in Dallas in April and hopefully in a city near you this fall.
What are you wrestling through right now?